Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Michigan needs this game in order to keep pace with the cream of the crop in the Big Ten, but with Penn State playing their best hoops of the season, it may not be such an easy task.
|Who:||Michigan Wolverines (23-4, 10-4)|
With Indiana's stumble at The Barn on Tuesday night, you'd have to say that Michigan is in the driver's seat for the regular season Big Ten crown. The Wolverines sit tied for second with Wisconsin and Michigan State at 10-4, but host both the Spartans and Hoosiers in the coming weeks, the latter of which will likely decide the champion if all goes according to plan.
That plan does not include a loss to an 0-14 Penn State. Despite the Nittany Lions' spirited efforts in Ann Arbor, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who would give Pat Chambers' crew a chance in hell at winning this game. I would say crazier things have happened in this frenetic college hoops season, but nothing would be crazier than the (objectively) worst BCS-conference team pulling off an upset against a Final Four contender in the thick of a conference title race. And nothing would be sweeter, considering the opponent.
Trey Burke almost singlehandedly destroyed Penn State (in their last meeting). The all-everything point guard had a season-high 29 points to lead his team to victory as the Wolverines got just about all they could handle from what was essentially PSU's assortment of reserves and Sasa Borovnjak, who is simply "он фире" right now. The big Serb will be honored along with Nick Colella at tonight's senior night ceremony, but the way Sasa has been playing lately (16.0 ppg on 74%(!) shooting over the last three games) it's getting harder and harder to see him go.
Penn State was competitive in the last meeting because they got great minutes from Colella (9 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists) and Ross Travis (11 points and 10 rebounds). Certainly, they played tough defense against one of the nation's most potent offenses (only four Wolverines scored from the field), but they probably won't be able to sniff a win unless their main threats show up in a big way.
D.J. Newbill and Jermaine Marshall were in foul trouble early and often at Crisler, so it'll be interesting to see what adjustments Chambers will make in order to keep them on the floor against such an offensively gifted team. Newbill will need to cut down on his turnovers after a subpar showing (7 TOs) in Champaign on Thursday. Marshall is coming off a great road performance at Illinois, where he posted 20 points on 6-11 shooting, and he'll need to continue that form in order for Penn State to have a chance.
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